Sharing and comparing my method for trying to beat the spread

I live in the Midwest which is Big Ten country. Once conference play starts virtually every Big Ten game is televised in my region and I commit myself to try and watch all of them. I have three televisions set up as some games are being played at the same time. I have no bias or affiliation to any Big Ten team as I am a lifelong Notre Dame fan (I include ND games in my viewing schedule as well). My comments and reports are qualified only by my love of the game and an extreme commitment to watching and following Big Ten football.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


WHAT HAPPENED

Most of the Big Ten bashing should be over as conference play began last Saturday. Conference races are usually competitive and fun to watch and this year’s Big Ten version should be no exception. Going into the season I personally didn’t see any Big Ten team having a shot at the BCS championship anyway. While it would be nice to follow a conference that’s considered one of the best, it really doesn’t matter to me that much. Still good football and plenty of top notch talent in the league. The conference does, however, seem to be lacking wide receivers that can catch the ball. Dropped passes are killing some of these teams and their quarterbacks are taking the blame as many analysts pass judgment based on the numbers alone.
Iowa 31  Minnesota 13
I was skeptical of Minnesota through the first four weeks of the season. Last week’s victory over Syracuse, however, convinced me to grab one of the last seats on the Gopher bandwagon. I’m ashamed to admit that I started to doubt my instincts and was swayed by the many analysts who were singing Minnesota’s praises. As it turns out, they are who I thought they were. I mistakenly predicted this game to go into overtime at 24 apiece. Minnesota’s front seven was no match for Iowa’s O-line as Hawkeye RB Mark Weisman ran for 177 yards. I was expecting Minnesota QB Max Shortell to have a good day throwing but that didn’t materialize. He underthrew his long passes, missed on several occasions including an early touchdown opportunity, and threw three interceptions. He didn’t get much help from his receivers either as there were several dropped passes at critical times. Can’t blame the Gopher OC though, as the play calling presented several opportunities for his kids to succeed. Minnesota needed production from the QB position and the passing game to succeed in this game. They don’t have much besides. Iowa is an OK team, but not one of the better ones in this conference and Minnesota was outplayed on every level. Tough to win at Kinnick, though, as the Hawkeyes played a solid game. I was also looking for some of the sloppiness and mental errors that Iowa displayed in past weeks, but there either wasn’t any or they just weren’t as glaring as the Hawkeyes were in control throughout the game.
Northwestern 44  Indiana 29
The score came in a little higher but this game went about as I expected as I predicted a 34 to 21 Wildcat victory. Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald is doing a great job of using both quarterbacks and he’s made the inevitable decision to give the majority of the snaps to Trevor Siemian while keeping Kane Colter on the field as an all-purpose back. It’s working great, too, as they hooked up for nine completions and 131 yards. Colter also ran for 161 yards and four touchdowns.The Wildcats built a 27 to 0 lead early in the third quarter against the Hoosiers porous defense, which then triggered Indiana to attack Northwestern’s weakness. As it was in the opener against Syracuse, Northwestern struggled to defend their big lead as they were repeatedly burned by the long pass. Why the Wildcat’s opponents don’t come out in the first quarter and throw over the top of an otherwise strong defense is beyond me. There were times in this game where the coverage was right there. Didn’t matter. The secondary couldn’t make a play on the ball as Indiana receivers simply went up and got it. Another nice win for Northwestern, though, but things will get a little more challenging this Saturday when they travel to Beaver Stadium to face a surprisingly solid Penn St team. Northwestern is undefeated but their opponents are a combined 1-12 against FBS competition. Right now Indiana is in a weekly battle with Illinois to be deemed the worst team in the Big Ten.
Penn St 35  Illinois 7
As embarrassed as I might be in my assessment of the Minnesota-Iowa game, I’m pretty proud of this one. Most analysts predicted a tight ball game here while I had Penn St winning 24 to 10. The only thing that kept me from coming closer to Penn St’s final was thinking that the Nittany Lions would make some of the small mistakes that they’ve been committing in previous weeks and that Illinois’ defense might fare a little (not much) better against the type of offense Penn St runs. This Penn St team has been on a mission and it continued in this game against a regressing Illinois team. The Nittany Lion defense is among the best in the conference and if the honors were passed out today, Penn St QB Matt McGloin would be a top all conference candidate (probably second to Ohio St QB Braxton Miller). The Illini, on the other hand, are going in the wrong direction. Starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase still doesn’t appear to be fully recovered from an ankle injury but it doesn’t matter. Too many stupid penalties and fundamental mistakes kept Illinois from being competitive in this game. They’re still battling injuries and it does take time for a new coaching staff, but I get the sense that after only five games HC Tim Beckman is on the verge of losing this team.
Ohio St 17  Michigan St 16
I was on the wrong side of this one but was right there with the score as I predicted a 17 to 14 Spartan victory. The game could have gone either way as Michigan St had their chances. Spartan QB Andrew Maxwell (who I felt was unjustly criticized in Michigan St’s loss to Notre Dame earlier in the season as he had absolutely no time in the pocket) played one of his better games but didn’t get much help as his receivers dropped too many passes in key situations. And, for a guy who supposedly “tweeted” that he was going to single handedly make sure the Spartans never lost again, Le’veon Bell was non-existent. The alleged Heisman trophy candidate didn’t break one tackle that I could see and failed to make the block in his blitz pickups. Credit Ohio St’s much maligned defense for showing up in this game, though. Michigan St’s defense played well also, once again good enough to win. I must admit, I thought the “Braxton Miller Show” would come to an end in this game but I can’t say enough about his performance and his importance to the Buckeyes success. Maybe not as dominant as he’s been against weaker opposition as he turned the ball over a couple of times, but when the chips were down he came through like a champion. His passing game continues to improve and, more importantly, he displayed the poise necessary to win big games. Not sure the Buckeyes would be undefeated at this point without turning to Miller, especially his running ability, to convert key third downs.
Nebraska 30  Wisconsin 27
My 31 to 17 Nebraska prediction was spoiled by a slow Huskers start. I immediately thought of how Nebraska wilted at the first sign of adversity in the second half of their game with UCLA earlier this season. Here we are in a big game with some pressure and QB Taylor Martinez is bobbling snaps and missing on his passes, RB Rex Burkhead fumbles, and the offensive and defensive lines are getting pushed around by a sub-par Wisconsin team. And to top things off, HC Bo Pelini calls for a 52 yard field goal attempt (missed) late in the first quarter with his team already trailing 14 to 3, which from the couch appeared to be an act of desperation and a means of shifting some of the blame from himself to his kicker. Wisconsin on the other hand, came out smoking as QB Joel Stave handled the pressure of his first start on the road well, completing seven of his first ten passes. The second half was a different story, however, as both teams resembled more of what I expected. Wisconsin’s O-line began to wear down and morphed back into the burden they’ve been all season and the Nebraska offense started to roll behind Martinez’s dual threat capabilities and some hard running by RB Ameer Abdullah. When all was said and done Nebraska rattled off twenty straight points to close out the victory. I might have had them underrated and overrated respectively, so I came away from this game thinking a little more of Wisconsin and despite the win, a little less of Nebraska.
 I didn’t focus much on Purdue’s 51 to 41 “track meet” victory over Marshall as I was locked into the OSU-MSU game on the other television. I’m kind of fired up for conference play so the enthusiasm for this game just wasn’t there. From what I did see Purdue seemed to have a handle on this game despite the final score as they were ahead 42 to 14 at the half. The Boilermakers gave up a score on a blocked punt in the third quarter which provided Marshall some hope but Purdue was able to answer on offense whenever they needed to. Marshall is known to have a high powered offense but I’m still a little surprised that Purdue’s defense didn’t hold the Thundering Herd to less points. Maybe took their foot off the gas a little with a big lead and probably looking forward to conference play as well.
 

KNEW IT ALL ALONG
- Illinois’ offense would be no match for a swarming Penn St defense 

DIDN’T SEE IT COMING
- Minnesota QB Max Shortell missing on several passes against Iowa after throwing so accurately in his previous starts.
- It was QB Andrew Maxwell and not RB Le’Veon Bell that was the strength of Michigan St’s offense against Ohio St.
- Ohio St QB Braxton Miller continued to display superior play-making ability against a legitimate Michigan St defense.
 

 

CRYSTAL BALL
 
WEEK OF 10-6-2012 

WISCONSIN
28
ILLINOIS
10
MICHIGAN ST
34
INDIANA
7
PURDUE
24
MICHIGAN
21
OHIO ST
28
NEBRASKA
19
PENN ST
23
NORTHWESTERN
19
NOTRE DAME
38
MIAMI
17

 

 

 BIG TEN (NOT)

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE THE GOLDEN DOME
When a friend asked me last August if I’d seen the new Notre Dame uniforms my heart sank. I hadn’t seen them yet nor even heard about them but immediately I flashed back to those green shamrocks they had plastered on their helmets for a couple of games last year (was it a couple? More?  Only once? Doesn’t matter-once was enough to leave an impression). “Did they change the helmets?” I immediately asked. “Yup”, was the reply. That was all I needed to know. I hate ‘em. Remove one speck of gold from the sacred helmets that have been the Notre Dame icon for all of my life and there’s no way I’m going along with it. My father was sitting with me at the time. Like many sports fans I adopted the teams of the household I was brought up in, which is to say my father’s teams. Of course by the time I got old enough to discover rebellion I could have switched teams as some kids do. I don’t remember the thought ever crossing my mind.  I was raised on Notre Dame and the Green Bay Packers and I loved it. Some of my fondest memories are Saturday’s with the old man and any of our friends who could put up with our shameless bias for the Fightin’ Irish. So needless to say the ensuing conversation revolved around how such a thing could occur. My friend, who is not a Notre Dame fan, pretty much agreed that this is a senseless act, thus confirming my thought that you don’t have to be a Notre Dame fan to see the crime here. As he started to describe the uniforms I thought surely it can’t be as bad as he’s making it sound. Must be messin’ with me, trying to get a reaction. I didn’t fall for it. I’ll have to see for myself. Maybe I didn’t want to know , maybe I suppressed the thought out of my memory, or maybe I wanted to wait until I had enough time to absorb something I was sure to hate, but a day or two actually passed before I went on line to take a look. Oh… my… god. I’ve got some old Grateful Dead T-shirts that are classier. These things are a slap in the face to all college football fans. Surely the internet is loaded with blogs that say as much. Time to dig in for some corroboration. The first site I viewed was by Newsday. Columnist Bill O’Reilly (no, not that Bill O’Reilly) wrote: “Notre Dame stirs passion in college football fans – you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. But the team’s new helmet and uniform should, for once, bring us all together in revulsion and alarm.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Since no college football fan could like this, why do it? Recruiting? Give me a break. These are intelligent young men that are required to pass admission tests. The phrase “because I like the uniforms” is usually reserved for the dumb blonde filling out the weekly office football pool. Surely this is the brainchild of some young marketing guru that convinced the Notre Dame higher-ups that it’s OK to trample over tradition. You know the guy, some out of touch straight-A nerd whose athletic experience begins and ends with eighth grade soccer. I began to search the internet further to find out where the protests are being held. Wait a minute, what’s ‘dis? Wilbon from PTI likes the new uniforms. Here’s another positive review. Plenty of “thumbs downs” to be sure but not the raging mob that I expected. Then I came across another site that contained a sentence that hit me right between the eyes: “The difficulty when you have iconic uniforms like Notre Dame is that when you tweak them, there’s a good chance some old guys will come and shake their canes at any changes.”1    Well I’m not so old that I’ll be needing a cane in the near future but I’m no college kid either. Made me recall I phrase I’ve adhered to since I was a college kid and still use on my father and his friends when I find their rants to be too conservative: “Complaining about the moral decay of youth is a sure sign of age.” New uniforms don’t exactly qualify as “moral decay”, but the sentiment applies. Could it be that it’s me and not the straight-A nerd who’s out of touch? Come to think of it, I don’t like this whole “throw back” uniform thing that’s all the rage right now either. Broke my heart to see Ohio St wearing throwbacks against Michigan a couple of years ago. C’mon man, the Michigan game? Haven’t missed that classic since I first saw it as a twelve year old kid. That game’s as traditional as Thanksgiving and so are the uniforms, especially the helmets. I mean what year are we “throwing back” to, 1940? Who’s still alive to appreciate it? Loved the idea when Rick Nueheisel and Pete Carroll exchanged delay of game penalties so both teams could wear their home colors in the USC-UCLA classic. That’s how it should be because that’s how it was back in the day. But then again, that was my day. I have a nephew who just entered college. Funny how my math skills failed me when I was talking to his father the other day and the conversation somehow involved the year he was born. 1994?  Can that be? ’94 wasn’t that long ago, has to be earlier than that, the kid’s already a grown man. If he was born in ’94 that means to him Notre Dame is just some mediocre team that for some inexplicable reason is on television every single week. How do you impress upon a college kid that this is not the uniform that Tony Rice, Joe Montana, or Joe Theismann wore? As I read further I discovered that the new uniforms would be worn for one game only against Miami on October 6. That was a relief but it probably just delays the inevitable. The times they are a changin’ to be sure so I’ll have to cherish the gold until the day comes when it fades into tomorrow’s throwback uniform. I wonder if I should go back to school to get a marketing degree. 

 1  Jeremy Repanich at   SIKIDS.com 
 

 

ATS

My Crystal Ball predictions for last Saturday were not good, but then again, not bad. About as vanilla as you can get, actually. The spreads were as follows: Illinois by 2, Iowa by 7, Michigan St by 3, Nebraska by 11.5, Northwestern by 11. My number for the Michigan St game was the same as the spread so that game is not reflected in my “spread record” and “closest” totals. I split in the ever-important “plays” category as I won with Penn St and lost with Minnesota. Hawkeye was the only winner in this category as he was the only one to pick Iowa as a SU winner. Everyone else collected a loss by taking Minnesota and Boilermaker picked up one more loss by taking Indiana. Everyone collected a win with Penn St except Hawkeye, Wildcat, and Wolverine. Wolverine picked up his win with Ohio St. Kind of a strange occurrence that Wolverine was more accurate than the spread (“closest” category) only one time yet was within 7 points of the score on three occasions. The spread was within 7 twice. 

 
 

KIS RANKINGS

This week’s ranking lists Oregon St in the top spot. I explained in my introduction to the KIS Rankings (on my 9-11 post) that I only had the time to track about 40 teams on the spreadsheet that I’m using. Oregon St was not one of the teams I selected as they were not expected to be a contender. As I notice teams with good records that are not on my list I will manually calculate their figures and add to them to my list. If and when it eventually looks like they are contenders and not pretenders, I will incorporate them into my spreadsheet (probably around week 7). I’m up to about 15 extra teams now. Oregon St was not calculated last week but their victory over Arizona and their undefeated record caught my eye so here they are ranked first by virtue of playing two of their three games on the road and a superior OPP%. (Suddenly Wisconsin’s loss against the Beavers doesn’t look so bad). West Virginia is a newcomer to this week’s ranking as they remained unbeaten and gained a few points in the OPP% category. Most teams are starting to lose points in this category as the number pool becomes larger. Stanford’s loss to Washington didn’t drop the Cardinal much as their opponents have lost only one game (excluding games against Stanford) thus giving them the second highest (Missouri) OPP% among the teams on my list. Iowa St hangs on for the same reason as they have the fourth highest OPP%. Arizona dropped out with their second loss and Oregon slipped a spot as they added a weak Washington St team to their list of opponents.

 

 

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